Over the last decades, the study of governance in Asia has increasingly expanded to include a focus upon non-state entities. Historians have realized that engagement with local intermediaries, civil society organizations, power brokers, and interest groups has been crucial to the day-to-day administration of European colonies and postcolonial states alike. Historically, colonial regimes contended and interacted with pre-existing political and socioeconomic structures of the regions they occupied and sought to reshape. Simultaneously there has been a continued awareness that ideas, methods and policies did not develop in isolation in each colony, but instead circulated in trans-imperial networks. Similarly, nation states in postcolonial republics from Indonesia to India and Pakistan have been compelled to seek dialogue with non-state actors, even as their solutions to challenges from these quarters have been informed by wider discourses on statecraft.

This conference seeks to bring together these different insights in comparative perspective, to shed light on the many paradoxes, differences and continuities of (post)colonial rule across Asia. We seek to highlight the different sources and brokers of power in colonial and postcolonial societies, and the manner in which these interacted, contradicted, overlapped with and challenged the authority of the state. The aim is to bring this wider context of governance into focus, by crossing regional and temporal boundaries and including colonial and postcolonial states in the same framework of research.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Indrani Chatterjee, University of Texas at Austin
  • Robert Cribb, Australian National University
  • Farish Ahmad-Noor, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore